Whew! I found the nine pages of research/dream record/free-write pertaining to my book. I found it saved on the netbook that I no longer use because I can type a sentence and go make a sandwich before the words appear on the screen.
I can breathe normally again with the free-write tucked safely in my novel folder.
The importance of these pages lies in the way my character chose to dictate her story. Based on a real African-American woman who was a teenager when President Lincoln freed the slaves, my story allows the reader to step back in time and feel the upheaval.
It’s going to sound a little far-fetched, but I’ve had 4 separate dreams about this woman. The first two were very sweet, almost like I was her daughter. The second two were quite aggressive and scary. Talking them out with a writer friend, I believe my character was showing me snippets of her life. She provided me with a couple of examples of what life was like in the South now that she was free but not equal. Black codes, the KKK and the Red Shirts were very real horrors in ways that most of us today cannot imagine.
The pages also include research on the above as well as personal accounts of the lives of real people. In one book I read, Janie Mitchell, a reliable cook, by Lisa Foster and Mary Lou Murray Coombs, Janie notes that free blacks were required to pay all kinds of taxes. If they were unable to pay, they could be taken in by a white family and be, essentially, enslaved again.
The last several pages are a historic timeline with the year and my character’s age, along with what was happening during and shortly after the war. Every section punctuated with the ever-growing list of questions I have about life during this tumultuous time. If lost, I would never be able to recreate these pages. My very real fears about the dreams have softened over time and I don’t think I can draw the same conclusions and ask the same questions now. These pages help me relive the dreams and give me direction for my questions so I can keep moving my story forward in the way my character intended.